More than 1.2 million Georgians are expected to be traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday.
While road construction projects have been paused, officials are urging caution during the 102-hour holiday travel period, which runs from 6 tonight until midnight Sunday.
“Historically, there are about 3,000 accidents on Georgia roads during the Thanksgiving holiday period,” said Keith Golden, the state Department of Transportation’s transportation commissioner.
“On average, more than a dozen people die and a thousand more are injured. This is supposed to be a holiday for grateful contemplation and festive family gatherings, not tragedy. Please be very careful and do not drive distracted or while impaired.”
For those who are traveling to or staying in Forsyth County, sheriff’s deputies will be out in force, said Capt. Tim House.
“We’ll have our specialized units and normal uniformed units to ensure that people are safe and have a safe weekend,” House said. “We’re just asking people to obey the traffic laws and please don’t drink and drive.”
Christmas is more than a month away, but House said Thanksgiving “starts the season where a lot of Christmas parties and office festivities take place.”
“We start seeing a few more people out there that have decided to take that risk of drinking and driving,” he said.
With school ending last week, the roads this week have been more quiet than normal, but today likely bring a rush of people leaving or coming in to town.
“And especially Friday, with that Black Friday shopping,” House said. “We’ll see a lot around The Avenue Forsyth and Ga. 400 … you’ll have a lot more people out and sometimes people get overzealous and caught up in the moment of shopping and are not paying as good attention as they ought to be to the road and what’s happening around them.
“People just need to take their time and be very, very patient.”
And drivers should be concerned with more than alcohol.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety will have state patrol troopers on the lookout for speeders and motorists not wearing seat belts, which are among the top contributors to fatal crashes.
“By conducting concentrated patrols or holding road checks across the state, troopers, deputies and officers can intercept violators before they are involved in a serious crash,” said Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the public safety department.
“Seat belts save lives and in a crash keep you from being thrown from the vehicle … please take the time to put your seat belt on and be sure that children are properly restrained as well.”
According the AAA Auto Club Group, Georgia’s gas prices are about $3.25 per gallon, about six cents below last year’s average.
While the cost of gas is slightly lower, nationally, Thanksgiving travel is up only about .6 percent from 2011. However, more than 1.1 million Georgians are still expected to drive an average of 525 miles, round-trip, to be with their friends and families during the holiday.
To help ease travel, all transportation department construction-related road closings are being halted, beginning at noon today through 9 p.m. Sunday. Still, the department encourages caution and safety as some long-term lane closures remain in place.
“We know it’s a festive season getting started, but … be very cautious and remember that are going to be a lot of people and a lot of traffic,” House said.